Super Squad: 1964: A Halloween Hullabaloo, Chapter 2: Existential Crisis

by Dan Swanson

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Excerpt from The SuperYou Player’s Handbook:

Appendix: Who Are the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly?

Time to meet the villains! The Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly is a fictional super-hero group created for the new heroic role playing game, SuperYou. In this game you can play as either the heroes or the villains. Players get to pick their characters from the Player’s Handbook and then partially customize them. Each character has a set of default powers, and a number of power points that can be used to pick additional powers from various tables. In addition, some characters are given weaknesses to offset their incredible powers.

Each player fills out character sheets for each of his chosen characters for each game. A lot of the information on character sheets is secret (such as exact choices for the specific powers and weaknesses selected for a particular game), and a good amount of effort goes into discovering the exact powers and weaknesses of your opponent’s characters.

The game includes a number of scenarios in which the heroes and the villains battle, and players are given tools to design their own scenarios.

Meet the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly.


Based on a radioed warning from Red Rocket, Shiva had used his authority as the group’s current leader to call an emergency meeting of the Super Squad at their New York headquarters, two hours hence. Since their Super Squad mini-jet could get them to New York in about forty-five minutes, Red Rocket and Lady Victory decided to stick around for a while and start their investigation at this end. Chief Mark Murphy supplied a conference room at the police station, and Elastique joined them.

Lady Victory took the lead. “Too many coincidences tonight for me!” she exclaimed, and turned to Elastique. “Coincidence number one: ‘Stretch,’ here.” Elastique winced at the nickname, but she didn’t protest. She was somewhat overwhelmed to be in the presence of such famous heroes.

“How is it that a brand-new, totally unknown super-heroine happens to turn up at exactly the same time and place as seven brand-new, totally unknown super-villains?”

Red Rocket interrupted quietly, “Let’s make sure we keep track of our assumptions, Lady V. We actually saw six super-powered villains — the seventh was unconscious the whole time.”

Lady Victory could have been annoyed, but she wasn’t. Uncatalogued assumptions were as bad as unexplained coincidences. She nodded, and turned back to Elastique. “OK, Stretch, you’re on!”

“You’re not going to believe this, but one night I fell asleep in a fairy ring. I had a really strange dream — and when I woke up, I found I could stretch my body.”

“Whoever heard of such a crazy thing? Do you expect us to believe that?” Murphy interrupted angrily.

“Hold on, Mark! You can’t just discount magic. What about Captain Marvel, or Ibis, or my old foe Wizzo?” (*) Red Rocket had seen magic many times. He didn’t like it, but he had been forced to accept it.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Rocket & Tom Atomic: Times Past, 1956: Right and Magic.]

Murphy looked stubborn. “You can’t expect me to believe in fairies! Magical creatures? Give me a break!”

“What would you call Shiva and Kali?” Lady Victory asked him pointedly. “A seven-foot, blue-skinned man with four arms and three eyes, a four-armed woman with flames for eyes, and you have trouble believing in the fey folk?” She turned back to Elastique. “Please go on. When did this happen?”

“A couple of years ago.”

“So why are you just making your first appearance now?” Lady Victory asked.

“Well, after I discovered my powers, I secretly practiced using them. I eventually realized I didn’t want to be a super-hero, so I just stopped. Tonight, I saw some people I know in danger, so I helped you.”

Chief Murphy looked thoughtful. “A couple of years… that could explain a couple of the department’s open mysteries. Last year, a payroll robbery at the DePaul factory just sort of fell apart. Did you have anything to do with that?”

She nodded. “That was just before I changed my mind about being a super-hero.”

“I wrote that one off as ‘Maxie the Gnome’ dropping a little bad news on the bad guys,” said the chief.

“Who’s Maxie the Gnome?” Rocket asked him.

Elastique smiled as she replied, “A local legend. Maxie brings luck, either good or bad. If you win the lottery, for example, we say that Maxie dropped you a little good news.”

“Isn’t a gnome a kind of a fairy?” Lady Victory asked, a twinkle in her eye.

“Hey! It’s just a local legend, like she said. Kind of like Bigfoot! I don’t believe in it!” the chief said indignantly.

“Most legends have some basis in fact, Chief.” Rocket winked at Lady Victory; the two of them had actually met Bigfoot a couple of years ago on Super Squad business. They’d asked her to join, but she was mystically linked to the land, and couldn’t survive anywhere except the Pacific Northwest, not to mention that she was also very shy.

Flustered, the chief changed the subject. “So, Red Rocket, why are you and Lady Victory here? I can’t believe you came just for the Halloween party — after all, you’ve passed it up the last five years. And the invitation from the Brooklyn Reading Club the five years before that.”

“I wondered why two groups I’d never heard of were so persistent about inviting me to their Halloween parties. That was your doing?” Rocket asked the chief.

“Sure was. When I learned you’d been Bulletboy, I figured, what the heck? You’d probably never show, but it was fun, telling folks I knew you back when. Boy, I’ve got an even better story now!”

“Actually, Chief, we’re really here because of an accident at the abandoned DePaul chemical facility in Chicago last month. Figured we might learn more if nobody knew why we were in town. We planned to do our snooping tomorrow. Looks like it will have to wait.” Rocket continued, “An unknown chemical spilled and gave a bunch of vagabonds super-powers.” He didn’t mention the horrific melding of a dozen people into a single hapless monstrosity. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Whiz: Lady Victory: Times Past, 1964: Toxic Waste.]

The chief looked puzzled. He’d kept close track of news stories involving their “good corporate neighbor,” but he hadn’t heard anything about an accident on their abandoned Chicago facility, especially not one involving super-powers.

Rocket explained, “We kept that part of it secret.”

Lady Victory was watching Elastique, and for just a second, she turned white as a sheet. The delectable detective was sure there was more to her story than a fairy ring. They would have to have a little girl-to-girl chat later. She turned back to the guys.

“OK, so there’s a link between DePaul Chemicals and unexpected super-powers. That ties in — all the JLA members are wearing costumes made from DePaul synthetic fabrics. But so were most of the other folks at the party. Why these particular seven members of the JLA and nobody else?” Lady Victory pondered.

Elastique was feeling feisty after Lady Victory had all but accused her of being a villain. “They were all on stage, they were all dressed as members of the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly, they all joined in the toast…” Her eyes opened wide. “They were all holding those antique golden goblets! That’s the only difference between them and the other people on the stage! Nobody else had them!”

Now the chief turned white. “Good Night! Probably a half-dozen of my men have touched those things since then. If it’s the goblets, we could be swamped by super-villains any second!” Very cautiously, the four headed for the evidence room, and didn’t encounter any super-villains along the way. If the goblets had been the source of the mysterious powers, they seemed to have lost their charge. Still, the chief cleared the evidence room and, using fireplace tongs, cautiously placed the seven goblets into a lock-box and then locked the box into a safe.

Before he closed the box, they carefully inspected these goblets, without touching them. They had been highly decorated by a very skilled craftsman, encrusted with what Lady Victory said were real gemstones. “How did a literary association that has to hold a Halloween fundraiser every year just to stay alive come into possession a virtually priceless set of antique goblets?” Lady Victory wondered aloud.

“I’ll find out!” Chief Murphy vowed.

“Chief, please call us at Super Squad Headquarters with any new findings,” Red Rocket asked him. “Either Lady Victory or I will call you back within a half-hour, anytime, day or night. And one of us, at least, will be back once we’ve taken care of the JLA.” He held out his hand. “We’ve got to go.” They shook hands, and he turned to Elastique.

She wasn’t interested in shaking hands. “I’d really like to see this through!” she insisted.

The flight to New York would give Lady Victory time to find out more about Elastique. Before Rocket could respond, she said, “That would be great! Let’s get going.”

Rocket trusted his partner’s instincts. The three headed to the small Justine airport, where the heroes had left their mini-jet. Rocket carried Lady Victory, while Elastique showed off another aspect of her power, by launching herself into the air and then changing her form. She flattened and sprouted wings, and kept up with Rocket easily. The scientist in Rocket admired the efficient flying wing shape she had adopted. The lady had good control of her power.


Meanwhile, exhausted by carrying his teammates on a hypersonic flight, Balefire barely reached their destination. He controlled tremendous power, but using it at such a high rate took a terrible toll on his body and spirit. He dropped them in front of a beach-side cliff just outside Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. Concealed in that cliff was the entrance to the Secret Stronghold of the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly.

The JLA was abuzz about what they had seen — and not seen — on the quick flight there.

“No nuclear winter! The clouds that have shrouded the sky ever since Mister oh-so-great Atom Ant threw Manhattan into the Sun are… gone!” Vanquish said bitterly. The new Manhattan volcano had been erupting violently ever since then, filling the sky with dark soot.

“You’ll pay for that, witch!” Adamant the Abhorrent Android had recovered enough to stand up, but he was still mysteriously weak, which was fortunate for Vanquish the Deadly Domina. Adamant had killed others who had mocked his name. Still, if she could avoid him for a half an hour, he would have forgotten the insult. Adamant was not the brightest bulb on the string, by a long shot.

“Somehow the Moon is back again, too!” It was strange to hear wistfulness in the voice of F’ant O’mah the Lunarian Lawbreaker. The Moon, which was her home, had been destroyed in the war between the Lunarians and the humans, and she was the last of her race.

“Stay alert!” warned Ghast the Ghostly Avenger. “We don’t know what we’re going to find here, but it’s almost certainly not our Secret Stronghold!” He had noted that the nearby town of Happy Harbor still existed. In his memory, Happy Harbor had been destroyed by an atomic explosion in the short but violent war between Earth and the Moon.

He was right. There wasn’t even a cave entrance. “So what the heck is going on?” demanded Breakneck the Speed Freak. As they normally did, the JLA turned to the Ghast for an explanation.

“Obviously, this isn’t our Earth,” he began. “This world shows no traces of our existence.” He hesitated, somewhat worried about the reaction to his next words. “I think the reason for that is that we don’t… actually…” He was having problems forcing out the next word. Taking a deep breath, he tried again. “I don’t think we actually exist!”

“#^@%!*& ghost! You might not exist, but I sure do!” yelled Adamant, swinging a wild backhand blow at the Ghast. Even though he had expected something of the sort, and even though Adamant was still somewhat weakened, the Ghast still couldn’t match Adamant’s super-speed, and the blow sent him spinning backward until he struck the cliff, then collapsed onto the beach.

Every bone in his body must have been broken. He wailed in agony as he collapsed, but then he dragged himself to his feet, and the others could see his body regaining human form. As a ghost somehow mystically bound to human form, he could recuperate in seconds from injuries that would kill normal humans, although he felt pain as strongly as any human. No one knew if he could actually be destroyed, as no one other than Adamant was insane enough to test that theory.

The spectral shadow unleashed a bloodcurdling howl that frightened even Vanquish, who was also a creature of Hell. “Your ersatz ‘soul’ will burn forever in real hellfire!” he roared as he sprang forward. Withdrawing a plastic sack from under his cape, he pulled out something the size of a marble and extended it toward Adamant.

The abhorrent android felt himself weakening and quickly took a step backward. The marble was auronite, the only substance that could harm him. Adamant had never revealed his weakness to anyone, but there were very few who could keep secrets from the Ghast. Such a small amount wouldn’t kill him right away, but he was still woozy from his earlier exposure in the banquet hall, where there must have been a couple pounds of the deadly substance.

Balefire the Pale Pukard reluctantly created a pale yellow-green energy barrier between Admanat and the Ghast. Breakneck and Aquon stepped in front of the Ghast, and Vanquish and F’ant O’mah confronted Adamant. Either their bodies or the barrier blocked the effects of the auronite, and for a second Adamant, the most powerful member of the JLA, and the Ghast, supposedly the weakest, glared at each other, restrained from mortal combat only by their reluctant companions. Then the Ghast laughed.

“Fools! I have all of your souls in my hands!” The bag opened wider, and more than one of the other villains felt a moment of their own secret weaknesses. That sack, if sundered, might very well destroy them all.

Smugly satisfied, the Ghast returned the auronite to the sack, and the sack to its place of safekeeping. “Remain silent while I explain. I’ll keep it simple so you can all understand.

“Even a doddering mind must realize that this is not our Earth, agreed?” None of the others commented, so the Ghast continued. “Therefore, something must have drawn us here. My innate sensitivity to magic tells me that we were drawn here by a powerful magic spell.”

“So what’s that crap about not existing?” Breakneck always was the most impatient one.

“How old are you?” the Ghast challenged him contemptuously. “What is your real name? Where did you grow up, and what are your parent’s names?”

“I’m twenty-nine, my name is Jack — er, ah, Flash!” Breakneck had started off confidently, but as he searched his mind for his last name, he started to falter. “Western New York…” And he ran out of words.

“Can’t recall your parents’ names? Seems a little strange, doesn’t it?” He whirled to face Balefire. “What about you?” He took a step backward and addressed all of them. “Do any of you recall any details about your life? Not just generalities — real details, like the name of the first person you killed, or the first time you broke the law?”

Nobody said anything, as each member of the JLA examined his or her memories. Prior to their debut at the costume party, none of them had the detailed memories that a real person should have.

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